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Economic Perspective: Regional Economic Growth in North Carolina

Mike Walden, CALS ARE Extension


“Today’s program looks at regional economic growth in North Carolina. Mike, almost any person likes a race, and in our state’s economy we often like to look at the race for jobs among our numerous regions. Who’s in the lead right now after over half of 2018 is in the books.”


“Well I looked at the numbers, and normally when you look at these numbers you see a typical lineup. You see Charlotte and Raleigh at the top. Then you maybe see Durham and Winston-Salem, the Triad, Wilmington and Asheville in the second tier. And then you see a lot of our smaller regions and rural North Carolina towards the bottom.”

“So far this year there’s been a big shake-up. After the first half of the year Durham is in the lead in terms of a job-growth rate. They’re running at a job-growth rate of around six percent. But number two does not go to Raleigh. It doesn’t go to Charlotte which is typical. It actually goes to rural North Carolina.”

“We are adding jobs in rural North Carolina at a pace faster than anywhere in the state except for the Durham metropolitan area, and that I think is very, very good. Very good news. If you go down the list then you do have Raleigh. You do have Greenville, Winston-Salem. Charlotte’s had not a tough first half of the year, but in terms of rankings they’re about in the middle of the pack.”

“We have only one metro region in the state that’s not been adding jobs based on the first half of the year, and that is Goldsboro. Hopefully that will turn around for the second part of the year. I think really what 2018’s rankings reflect is the fact we’re having faster economic growth, businesses are having trouble finding workers in those big metropolitan areas so they’re looking farther afield.”

“We’ve had some very good job announcements and business announcements in rural North Carolina, and this is exactly what we’ve needed to pick up rural North Carolina and move it faster to the pace of growth that we’ve seen in the metro areas.”

Mike Walden is a William Neal Reynolds Distinguished Professor and Extension Economist in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics at North Carolina State University who teaches and writes on personal finance, economic outlook and public policy.